As told by Mervyn York
The making of the plough: “First I got all the pieces made up – the bits on the front came from a telegraph pole that came from Sloley. The front is all in one piece. I drilled it and filed it. The piece on top is how you alter the height of the plough – you alter it so it’s ploughing a nice straight, clean furrow. It’s a scale model, and it’s like my father’s plough, with 5 spokes in the wheel. The holes in the handles are where the cat chewed it!
Once the ploughman got his plough set, you could let go of the handles and walk next to it. When you get to the end, you lift the plough and steer the horses round and off you go again.
Mervyn York was first inspired to make model bridles and harnesses about 30 years ago, after seeing a rather mediocre version in a model shop in Norwich. Turning to his wife, he said, “If i can’t make a better model than that, I’ll eat my hat!” and promptly went home and set about the task. He didn’t require a plan, since he’d worked with farm horses all his life, and knew everything he needed from years of experience. Experimenting with materials, tools and methods, he completed his first model.
He then advanced to making farm carts, and three different wagons are pictured here.
The horses are quick to learn – once they’ve been up and down a couple of times, they know exactly what to do: they would go up to the bank, the grass would be nice and green – they would have a mouthful of grass, perhaps two, and then they would turn once you spoke to them and they would go again, and they did exactly the same at the other end.
You see those 4 horses in that picture – they’ve a plough like this one. The one in the front with his hoof in the furrow – he’s a learner and the horse to his left is an old one. You look at the back two, and you’d think it was a regiment of soldiers – they walk in step because it’s easier on their shoulders.
It was about after the War that tractors and horses were on the change-over for those who could afford to have them. It was a lot easier on your tractor, but, there again, if you were used to your horses, they were ok.
I was the last but one of 10 children – Ethnie and Jessie are still alive; there were 5 girls and 5 boys. I was brought up in New Barn. My mother died when I was still at school. When she died, after the funeral, my sister Ruby, the youngest, was taken to live in Lowestoft with my mother’s sister. And that’s where she was until she left school. She came back home after I came out of the Army – we were living in Pear Tree Cottage then. When she got home she was like somebody frightened – she’d had a rough time, always being picked on.
There’s only one story I used to get when I was growing up – all the blame used to be put on me, and the next part of the story used to be: “Get up them stairs!”
I went to Tunstead school and there was a time I got into trouble with the teacher, Miss Neve. It was a wet day and we had to stay in for drill. There was myself and Ted Cushion and 2 girls the other side and somebody made a rude noise and the blame was put on me. Anyway, she was going to give me the cane, and as she’s coming down with her cane, and you drop your hand, she hit her knee! Twice that happened. And then she started being a bit rough with me and then I hit her. I got out the door very fast! But Jessie and Glynis was still at school and when I got home, they’d brought a piece of paper with what I’d done, and there was my father waiting with the strap. So I got the strap over my arse and put upstairs. Later, I asked Ted Cushion if he’d done the rude noise, but he say “I don’t know, I can’t remember”, so I don’t know.
It was a tough time: we had about 6 or 8 cows. We had to go round the kitchen to pick up the cans and bottles that had been used from the dairy, even when it was dark nights. The girls would wash them up, and I would carry them back. I had to carry the milk from home to the Gatehouse, Richardson’s, Durrant’s, Vaughan’s, Claxton’s,Bristow’s, Bambridge’s, Daniel’s and then Tooley’s. Father would do his milk round – starting off by the church, and round the ‘square’: past Place’s corner, right down Crowgate Street, onto Market Street to Bambridge’s, through to Sco Ruston. At first, Father would go round on his bicycle with the cans attached to the handle bars. Later on he bought a pony and cart; sometimes I went with him and looked after the pony. One afternoon Kenny Adams was coming for a bike ride with me – I got an old bike and he started wriggling about – off his bike he go. He went hobbling home but I had to carry on. When I got home I found out what he’d done – a split right across his knee and took a long time to heal up. He didn’t wiggle on his bike again!